About 92% of United Negro College Fund (UNCF) students who qualify for financial assistance are from low-income families. That’s why the United Negro College Fund has been raising funds for scholarships and emergency grants through the UNCF Campaign Emergency Student Aid program, which Macy’s is helping to support. For Black History, Black Brilliance, Macy’s effort to honor Black

History Month, Macy’s is once again partnering with UNCF to raise scholarship funds for students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the company is spotlighting up-and-coming Black-owned brands.

Shawn Outler is Macy’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. With her work, Macy’s has kept track of their goals and stays thinking about how to remain inclusive. “In 2020, we took a stance and accelerated the goals and strategies we already had in place. Now, today is about taking action, holding ourselves accountable to these goals and being transparent about our progress,” she said.

Black History, Black Brilliance honors the legacy and contributions of Black Americans during February. The round-up campaign is in support of youth empowerment and education, while the brand spotlight is Macy’s continued effort to show inclusivity and diversity by nurturing Black-owned retail business talent, according to Macy’s press release.

For the UNCF Give-Back Campaign with Macy’s, Macy’s customers can either donate online or round-up their in-store purchase amounts and donate that extra money, up to $0.99, to UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. The donation campaign is online as well at macys.com.

The longstanding partnership has been around since 2006 and has raised more than $500,000 for academic and emergency aid to Black students. The emergency grants that some students are awarded through UNCF are crucial towards ensuring degree completion.

Diego Aviles is vice president, fund development-northeast. He said that students have been facing food insecurity, technology needs, emergencies and challenges receiving financial aid as a result of the pandemic. Because of these issues, the donations that they are able to get from their partners is crucial to get students assistance.

“You can’t plan emergencies, so when they come up, having a powerful partner like Macy’s and funds that they’ve provided is so valuable to us,” he said.

Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,000 colleges and universities in the country. Since being founded in 1944, they have improved the number of minorities attending college. 45.9% of Black students enrolled in four-year public colleges complete their degrees in six years—the lowest rate compared to other races and ethnicities, the National Student Clearing House Research Center reported in 2017.

However, the six-year graduation rate for a UNCF African American scholarship recipient is 70%, which is 11% higher than the national average, UNCF’s website said. Their efforts have been used to address minority education disparities.

UNCF supports college students and their development through educational programs and scholarships. In addition, the organization provides financial support to 37 HBCUs and they have been serving as the leading advocate to express the importance of minority education and community development, UNCF’s website said.

Macy’s plans to give a spotlight to seven brands that will be available at select Macy’s stores and online. These brands include Healthy Roots, a toy company, by Yelitsa Jean-Charles; Buttah, a skincare line of products targeted towards melanin skin, by Dorion Renaud; and Harlem Candle Co., a luxury home fragrance brand inspired by the Harlem Jazz Age, by Teri Johnson.

Among the spotlighted brands is Nude Barre, a bodywear collection created by Erin Carpenter. The company has revolutionized and diversified what nude is in bodywear by creating tights, camisoles, panties, fishnets, etc. that come in 12 inclusive shades to match all skin tones. The shades that they have provide minorities who have been historically overlooked and underrepresented to feel comfortable.

“I think businesses putting spotlights on Black-owned businesses helps to catapult them and offer opportunity to grow,” Carpenter said.

In the past, Macy’s has already shown a dedication towards helping the Black community. Not only has the UNCF partnership been established for over a decade, but they have worked to educate and prepare companies created by people from underrepresented groups to form a relationship with major retailers through The Workshop at Macy’s, which has been around for many years.

“We believe these brands have resonated well with our customers and bring tremendous value to our assortment,” Outler said.

Nude Barre is one of those brands that went through The Workshop back in 2013. After completing The Workshop, Carpenter said she tried to pitch their company to Macy’s but the timing wasn’t right.

However, Macy’s reached out to Carpenter when they found that her brand would fill an opening for a bodywear brand with the variety that she offers.

“We’ve had extensive conversations with our buyer about growing our business together as a long-term plan, so it isn’t just a one time initiative,” Carpenter said.

Aviles shared a similar appreciation and gratitude for Macy’s. “Macy’s has been there before 2020. I believe they don’t care whether it’s 1968 or 2020, they truly believe this is a movement and not a moment,” he said.

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